Seven years ago, we warned that this was happening in France: a particular pesticide called “Gaucho” was causing bees to fly away from their hives to forage, only to disappear. The speculation was that they were becoming disoriented and were unable to find their way back to the hive?something unheard of in these insects. This may be one reason for the disappearance of bees here in the US too, since the same pesticide is being sprayed on corn, and corn is displacing other crops in order to produce ethanol.
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We have a SLIGHT reprieve on the US bee emergency: on Friday, July 13, Agriculture Undersecretary Gale Buchanan warned, “There were enough honey bees to provide pollination for US agriculture this year, but beekeepers could face a serious problem next year and beyond.”

Of course, Gale Buchanan was only referring to the US problem. There is a serious problem in Europe as well, and the state of honeybee populations is not known in much of Asia and Africa, where there is no organized effort to measure them and no real idea of whether or not colony collapse disorder is a problem.
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As Linda Howe has reported on Dreamland, the sudden disappearance of honey bees in many parts of the country may be related to pesticide exposure. The latest reports suggest this is not necessarily due to the pesticides sprayed on the plants that bees pollinate, but the pesticides sprayed INSIDE the hives to kill mites.

For the past decade, beekeepers have treated their hives with pesticides to combat two kinds of mites that attack the bees. Entomologist Walter (Steve) Sheppard says, “To keep bees, especially on a commercial level, beekeepers have needed to use some sort of chemical control of these mites. Normally, Varroa mites will kill a colony within two years, if they?re not treated and the use of these pesticides brings with them a risk of accumulation in the wax.”read more

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) escalated in November 2006 and seems to have spread to 27 states and Brazil, Canada and many parts of Europe. Scientists and beekeepers are trying to figure out what is causing entire hives of honeybees to disappear before it’s too late, since nearly one-third of the human diet comes from insect-pollinated plants, and the honeybee is responsible for 80% of that pollination.

Among the crops to be affected are apples, nuts, avocados, soybeans, asparagus, broccoli, celery, squash, cucumbers, peaches, kiwi, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, cantaloupe and other melons. The bee shortage will potentially affect the beef industry too because the growth of alfalfa is dependent on pollination from the bees.
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